Choice blindness: You don’t know what you want

Watch the video below and then read the text and the linked full article. No cheating!

As anyone who has ever been in a verbal disagreement can attest, people tend to give elaborate justifications for their decisions, which we have every reason to believe are nothing more than rationalisations after the event. To prove such people wrong, though, or even provide enough evidence to change their mind, is an entirely different matter: who are you to say what my reasons are?

But with choice blindness we drive a large wedge between intentions and actions in the mind. As our participants give us verbal explanations about choices they never made, we can show them beyond doubt – and prove it – that what they say cannot be true. So our experiments offer a unique window into confabulation (the story-telling we do to justify things after the fact) that is otherwise very difficult to come by. We can compare everyday explanations with those under lab conditions, looking for such things as the amount of detail in descriptions, how coherent the narrative is, the emotional tone, or even the timing or flow of the speech. Then we can create a theoretical framework to analyse any kind of exchange.

The next time you read a story on financial markets that starts, “the markets were up (down) today because…” you should keep this study in mind.

Sometimes market rise and fall for no reason.

See the full article at the link below (hat tip Robin Hanson).

Choice blindness: You don’t know what you want – New Scientist

  1. Stevie b. says

    so Ed – your first foray into psychology! Interesting to see where you go with it. Not just fabled stories about the markets, but virually everything one reads has all sorts of questions behind it – from vested interests to the author’s need to write something/anything before lunch, for reasons known only to him/herself. Coincidentally, in the mediation work I do, I come across this elaborate self-justification quite a bit and it’s probably omnipresent and maybe we’re as guilty as anyone – well nearly anyway!

    1. Edward Harrison says

      Stevie, happy May Day or is it worker’s day or something like that?

      I am definitely guilty. After all, these things are completely hard-wired. We can try and make ourselves aware of them but we are fighting an uphill battle.

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